Yes. there is a lot of re-wiring to be done for me. Always. Since I went to school growing up and all in all have spent 18-20 years of my life in school or studying a required curriculum my brain really does need a lot of re-wiring. I have learned all my life that there is one way of doing things and one way of learning things and that that way is the right way. It takes time to undo that mindset and it is by no means undone with me.
I need to re-think every little aspect of the way that I think all the time. I need to stop and ask myself if there really isn’t another way of doing what I am doing. This is definitely not an easy task. Especially since we humans are animals of habit and it is so easy to slip into the comfortable and reassuring life of habits. Doing what you know. Doing what you have always done. It requires that I have the courage to doubt my surroundings, my society, my acquired values. It requires me to step back and look at my life and at my friends’ lives and the lives of everyone I know and ask if I want to go that way or if I want to try something that is uncertain and unknown. That is scary. Especially if, like me, you’re not all that brave all the time. So you may need some help and inspiration.
What gives me the courage to question the things I’ve learned so far are the many people I see and read about who are actively questioning how things are done. And there are many people who do this.
One of the people who first had me wondering if going to school was really such a good idea was Sir Ken Robinson. While he does not entirely dismiss schools and their effect on children and other students he questions if there aren’t other ways to go about teaching. I read some of his books among which are ‘The Element’ and ‘Out of Our Minds’. What Ken Robinson does so well is explain how society’s boundaries and norms affect the way we think and he offers ways to challenge traditional beliefs about how we should find out what we want to do with our lives. He sort of makes it okay to explore different possibilities. I find his writing very inspiring and his talk on how schools kill creativity is really awesome.
I am inspired by the writings of other people too of course. John Holt is a source of some very enlightening ideas about what schools do to children and their brains. I especially like ‘How Children Learn’. Holt was the one who first got me to consider the benefits of unschooling. I didn’t know anything about it, or that such a thing as unschooling actually existed. Or was coined a term. But the ideas weren’t new to me per se. I always had an idea that unschooling is, in fact, how you learn. You live and experience and learn. It was always the way I learned the best as a child. When I was free to follow my own interests and ideas. Another inspiration for me in the process of deciding to unschool was John Taylor Gatto. ‘Against school’ is a very interesting piece of reading. But I was inspired by lots of other people too. Sandra Dodd, Pat Farenga, Jan Hunt and many more.
More so, I am inspired by the people who do it. The unschoolers from my community here in Denmark. Those who have been doing it for a long time and those who are just beginning. The people around the world who are following their hearts and stepping out of the mainstream way of life to pursue their dreams. Those brave souls who live life to the fullest. These are the people who inspire me. I am especially inspired by Lainie Liberti & Miro Siegel and Idzie Desmarais. I am also inspired by Cecilie Felumb Conrad.
The best thing about becoming aware of how my mindset holds me back and stops me from doing things I want to do is the increasing knowledge that I am actually capable of following my dreams. That it is okay if my dreams aren’t like the dreams of the people who surround me. It is okay if I am not striving to become succesful in the conventional, Western sense of the word. Heck, not even successful but just trying to fit in to the scheduled, buy-and-throw-away, clock-is-ticking-I-need-to-go way of living. It is really okay if I don’t wish to fit in there. The thing is, most of my good friends don’t wish to fit in there either. Even the ones who do fit in talk about how they wish things could be different.
When you are in the process of re-wiring your brain and adjusting to a different lifestyle you will inevitably have doubts along the way. No matter how well things are going, no matter how much joy you see your child experiencing there will be doubts and fears trying to convince you otherwise. And if it isn’t your own doubts and fears it will be someone elses. The doubts and fears of your loved ones. So, when these doubts and fears emerge, it is important to take a close look at them. What are you really afraid of? Is it a practical matter of how am I going to finance this? Or is it a social matter of how will people around me react to what I am doing? Or is it just that I am doing something entirely new and I don’t know how it will pan out and I am scared! Or something else. There is always an underlying cause of your doubt and your fear. When you are able to identify it you can work around it or with it or, perhaps, make it go away. But it is not easy.
I recently had a period with a lot of anxiety about my decision to unschool A. It was triggered by a letter from our school distrect supervisor whom I have a good collaboration with. And whom I thought was on the same page as me when it comes to testing kids, namely that I didn’t want any tests so there shouldn’t be any. Anyway, the letter was an invite to a three and a half hour long examination of A and her skills in math and Danish. I was shocked. I was afraid. I started fearing what this would do to A and so on. Until I realised there was another way to go about it. I am so very lucky to have a friend in the same school district as me who also unschools. She had gotten the same invite. We talked a lot back and forth and decided to write the school a letter saying we could not accept testing and the reasons why. We wrote letters back and forth for a while corresponding with the school principal. We ended up going to a meeting with the school principal who turned out to be both interested and willing to listen to our opinions. She actually said herself that testing would be an assault on our children since they are used to doing things in a completely different way! So, we don’t have to test them.
My point is, if something feels wrong and you really do not want to do it, or have your child do it, then it probably is wrong. And there is probably a better solution that will make things a lot better for you and your familiy. And the solution is probably achievable if you try.